Movement to rename Lewes beach after Johnny Walker
LEWES, Del. – If you’ve grown up in Lewes or lived in the resort town for a few years, you’ve probably heard the name Johnny Walker. He grew up in Delaware and really made his mark in the Lewes area, and so now members of the commission want to honor him by calling what’s now known as beach two the Johnny Walker beach.
“When we got together and decided we wanted to make a name for it, the one important name was Johnny Walker,” Reverend George Edwards, the President of the Lewes African American Heritage Commission, said. “He was a man that was well known, did a lot for the people, all you would do was if you wanted something or needed something, he was the man, they would all say ‘Go see Johnny Walker.'”
Now a few years after Walker’s death, the African American Heritage Commission wants to rename beach number two in honor of him.
“He contributed so much to this beach and this area, and also to the town of Lewes, so we thought it would be a good idea to give this beach, instead of beach number two in Lewes, we’d say the Johnny Walker beach,” Reverend Edwards said.
Walker owned a restaurant at the beach that felt like a safe haven, a place that Bill Collick, another member of the commission, says parents could send their kids and know they were being looked after. But it’s not just about honoring one man, it’s about highlighting the history of the town and the beach.
“When we talk about American history, that was done by people of color, it certainly isn’t taught at times and where it needs to be, and we’re behind,” Collick said.
And that includes talking about the ugly history of the town, too. Reverend Edwards says when he would come to this very beach after moving to Delaware in the 50s, there was a clear line between the beach for Black people and the beach for white people.
“When we would call this the Black beach, or beach number two, you’d only go so far, then the other beach, you wouldn’t go up there,” he said.
And now with a new generation of children growing up in the town, Collick says when they put their toes in the sand on a beach named after an influential Black man, they’ll know their own possibilities are limitless.
“I think if you can see it, you can believe that you can do it, and so that’s why it’s so important, for all people and kids to be able to look at and feel and know true American history,” Collick said.
Edwards and Collick say there is one more meeting scheduled for town officials and the commission to talk about the renaming, but they are confident they have enough support, and it will officially be named the Johnny Walker Beach.